Sharks in the Time of Saviours Review
What do you get when you mix magical, mystical fantasy with gritty, down-to-earth realism? Well, add a healthy dose of Hawaiian culture and you’ve got Sharks in the Time of Saviours - a story about family, human connection, and the battle between culture and capitalism.
The story begins with Nainoa/Noa - the gifted middle child - falling into shark-infested water. Instead of meeting an untimely end, he is gently rescued by the shark and delivered safely back to his family. After this miraculous incident, he’s blessed with the ability to heal - which is pretty special, but has some run-on effects for him and his family as he grows older.
The main watch-out in this novel is the way the characters develop and change throughout the course, and (without spoiling anything) how the climax of the novel affects them all. While it’s a little confusing to start, as the four narrators are just about indistinguishable and I frequently had to backtrack to remember who was speaking, if you stick with it the story gets more exciting about a quarter of the way through and really grips you.
One thing I found a little disappointing was the way Noa’s sister Kaui was written. She’s like a smart, sassy, stereotype. That, I can forgive. Unfortunately, her journey with her sexuality was a little harder to forgive - it felt surface level and her identity didn’t run as deep as I would have liked. As a lesbian, it didn’t resonate with me and it was exactly the watered down retelling of a gay young woman’s struggles that a straight man would write. The author is a cis man who is married to a woman, so go figure. If you’re straight, you probably won’t have an issue - but given you’re reading this on Agnes & Edie, you probably aren’t.
A theme frequently explored in depth in this book is the unrealistic expectations that we place on children. Noa is gifted, yes, but the pressure that is placed on him by his family because of his gift wears him down - any former “gifted child” will relate to feeling this pressure. His family expects him to save them financially, and that’s a lot for a kid to handle - having any kind of responsibility thrust onto a seven year old is a lot. At seven, you should be playing and learning how to be a person. Not feeling obligated to perform.
All in all, this book isn’t what I expected but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It moves quite slowly through the majority of the book but it rewards you by picking up with gusto when you least expect it, and slaps you with the climax of all climaxes that will leave you racing through the final pages.
Grab your copy here!